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Steel Industry — [Mrs Madeleine Moon in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:27 pm on 11th May 2016.

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Photo of Christina Rees Christina Rees Labour, Neath 3:27 pm, 11th May 2016

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. It is time to work together. The uncertainty over the past 12 months has been greater than at any time in Andrew’s 21-year career. Due to the cyclical nature of the steel industry, there have always been highs and lows. Andrew told me about his personal experience of the past few months:

“Back at the end of 2015 I wondered how we can continue with the losses being incurred. Time and time again, Tata asked the Government for help with trade restrictions, yet, month after month we were informed that our losses were huge.”

From initial despair to waves of hope, the plant continued to operate under the most trying of circumstances.

I have asked questions in the Chamber, but I wish to press the point again. Will the Government use the current threat to the UK steel industry as an opportunity to change the way we do things so that new innovations and a thought-through structure can be established that will protect the steel industry for many years to come? Innovation is already taking shape in Neath Port Talbot. SPECIFIC—the sustainable product engineering centre for innovative functional industrial coatings—is an academic and industrial consortium led by Swansea University, involving several strategic partners, and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Innovate UK and the European regional development fund via the Welsh Government. SPECIFIC’s vision is to deliver buildings that generate, store and release their own energy, which is an example of a radical and transformative energy solution using buildings as energy systems. Steel is a key element of that, and SPECIFIC is working with Port Talbot steelworks and its downstream operations to develop functional coatings for steel, which rely on high quality steel. Together, they are creating a pipeline of products for the future that will help to ensure that we have a sustainable and competitive steel industry.

SPECIFIC and Tata are working on innovation in construction, and those products and systems, such as solar integrated roofing products and new forms of heating system, are already entering the marketplace. Steel from Port Talbot is being turned into systems in Shotton. No matter what the asset base or ownership of any future UK steel model, technology and innovation are critical, and it is equally critical that such technology and innovation are in close proximity to the major steel-making sites.